Customer Satisfaction Survey Customer Satisfaction is often measured  by Customer Survey data. There are many market research companies that will create and run customer satisfaction surveys for you, based on your unique needs.

Factors to Consider

1. How will the customer be contacted?

Different methods might include: telephone, email, in person, or on the web or on a mobile device. It is important to try to choose a method of surveying that provides the customer will the ability to provide feedback securely. Some customers may not want to provide their names or their contact information but would be happy to provide anonymous feedback. Explain how the data will be used. Use someone outside the normal day to day interaction staff if doing the survey directly with the customer.

2. How many customers will be contacted?

Will you contact all available customers or a sampling of them. Often a sample will be reduced by other factors such as limiting the frequency of surveying, or the ability to successfully engage with those customers you want to survey.

3. Where to get the contact names  or contact information.

Sometimes you don’t know who has bought your product or service. That could occur if your product distribution is through business partners or retailers. Often manufacturers will ask to have warranty cards returned in an effort gain customer information but from what I learned at IBM, only about 2% of warranty cards are ever returned.

If the survey is a relationship survey (see below), then picking who in a large organization represents the views of the customer is a challenge. If the sales team offers up the names of the people to be surveyed, they may skew the survey to a  ‘known’ friend in the organization rather than the real decision maker. You also need to decide if the contact you want to survey is not available or delegates the survey to someone else in the organization, if that is acceptable to you.

4. How often to contact a customer.

If your organization surveys a customer after they call in for support or come to have their car repaired  and there are several events in a short period of time, the customer may get annoyed if you request feedback too often. This is called ‘survey fatigue’. One of the industry best practices is to limit surveys to once in six months. For relationship surveys (see below) that might be extended to annually.

5. What questions to ask.

This is a not a trivial issue. The people who commission surveys or create them will often use the language of the organization rather than the language of the user. Survey questions should always be created with the wording and terms customers would relate to. Leave an opportunity, if possible for customers to leave you an open ended comment. Sometimes the most valuable feedback is not related to questions you are asking in the survey.

6. Topic of the survey

a. Relationship Survey: Is this a relationship survey based on an overall  relationship that spans multiple years. In this case, the questions would relate to partnership, helping the customer with their business objectives, not just how well your organization performed its contractual duties.

b. Transaction Survey: Some surveys can be done at the end of a business transaction such as a support call, automobile maintenance visit, or a sales transaction.

c. Product or Service Survey: Some surveys may be done after the customer has acquired a product and used it to determine how easy it was use, learn and any features that seem to be missing. Or if you sell services,  any comments about the value of the service,  whether it met the objectives and any  improvements to services would be the main topic of the survey.  These Product or service surveys are useful as they reach customers who may never have contacted your organization after the original purchase.

7. How quickly  to survey

If you are measuring transactions, how fast do you get back to the customers about the event you wanted to track?. If you wait too long to contact the customer or cannot tell the customer exactly what the transaction, sale or product is that the survey is asking about, you may get invalid responses.

If you are measuring a relationship annually, you may want to schedule the survey at the same general time every year. If you are measuring a product or service, you may have to give the customer some time to experience the product or to determine if the service matched the requirements. In those cases, care must be taken to pick when to survey the customer.

8. Reporting of results.

Once you have a survey process in place, picking a timetable to report results is another decision to make.  You want to have enough results to be meaningful and be able to show a trend. So if you volume of surveys is low, you may have to report quarterly, semi annually or yearly. If the volume is high, maybe the results can come out weekly, or monthly. It is important to watch trends in customer satisfaction sentiment.

9. Handling of unhappy customers

Invariably some of the customers contacted will be dissatisfied. It is important to have a process to handle these dissatisfied customers.  Someone must be monitoring the results as they come in and dissatisfied customers need a response. At IBM, we ensured the  dissatisfied customer, found in a survey,  was addressed quickly. Customer are often very pleased that they have been ‘heard’ and that their issues have been explained or addressed.

10. Feedback to the customer base

After a survey has been conducted, if there are glaring issues that arise, then your business needs to address them. After they have been fixed, the customers needs to be informed that you have made some changed based on their feedback and what has changed.

There are various methods to inform customers from press releases and analyst reviews, to additions to the website, or bills mailed out or any other communication vehicle to reach your customers. Expect it to take time before customers will notice that you have changed something. If it is a service or support change, not everyone calls in regularly for support. Perceptions change closely.


These 10 factors to consider are some of the important elements in setting up a customer satisfaction survey for your organization. Does your organization use other factors. Leave them in the comments section below.

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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